Amazon has been accused of creating “intolerable working conditions” after allegations that workers have been penalised for sick days and that some are camping near one of its warehouses to save money commuting to work.
At least three tents have been spotted in woodland beside the online retail giant’s base in recent days, sparking concerns about the depths some employees are resorting to to hold down a job.
Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat leader in Scotland who has repeatedly called for the firm to improve its working conditions said:
“It confirms that Amazon have created intolerable working conditions for many. The company don’t seem to be interested in keeping workers for too long as they work them until they drop. They have generated an oppressive culture where management and some workers put undue pressure on workers.
“It’s time for Amazon to finally change their ways. That means a change to wages and to working conditions.”
Amazon has hired 20,000 agency workers for the peak Christmas season, more than doubling its workforce.
The company has 12 fulfillment centres around the UK, has come under fire in the past for its treatment of workers, many of whom are employed through agencies.
The company came under fire last month from local activists who claimed that agency workers are working up to 60 hours per week for little more than the minimum wage and are harshly treated.
When questioned about the tents, Amazon said:
“We are proud to have been able to create several thousand new permanent roles in our UK fulfilment centres over the last five years. One of the reasons we’ve been able to attract so many people to join us is that we offer great jobs and a positive work environment with opportunities for growth.
“We offer associates a range of roles in our fulfilment centres, depending on their preferences. Some roles involve walking a number of miles each day, a fact we make clear during the recruitment process. Many associates seek these positions as they enjoy the active nature of the work. There are many opportunities for people who prefer less active roles.
“As with nearly all companies, we expect a certain level of performance from our associates. Productivity targets are set objectively, based on previous performance levels achieved by our workforce.”
The company said it analysed wages every year to ensure they were competitive. All permanent and temporary Amazon workers start on £7.35 an hour or more and earn at least £11 an hour for overtime. There are paid 30-minute lunch breaks and subsidised meals. The new national living wage is £7.20 for workers aged over 25.